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On EPA Restrictions Can Encourage Clean Coal

I agree Paul,

I think that CCS technology should be much more advanced by now, but because the fossil fuel industries were not "forced" by regulations to curtail their emissions there was no investment in developing it.  Either these regulations will put power plant emissions in check (either by CCS or some other means) or fossil fuels will be going the way of the dinosaurs they came from. 

September 26, 2013    View Comment    

On Controlling Climate Change: IEA Says It's Not All About Carbon Dioxide

Yes, water vapor is our #1 contributor to the greenhouse effect, and also the least discussed GHG.  Water vapor is very short-lived in the atmosphere though, the larger challenge, right now, is to get rid of the GHG emissions that stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years.  The ramifications of those are far worse since we can't remove them once they're there.  Water vapor remains only a short time before it falls as rain.  I

July 15, 2013    View Comment    

On Facts on Fracking: Three Things You Need to Know

That's another valid point that's tough to quantify.  Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas about 4times the warming effect of carbon dioxide.  But, it's hard to estimate how much leaks from gas drilling.  And, is this process as damaging or more damaging than burning and mining coal and oil?  Is it worse than mining tar sand or offshore drilling? 
100% renewable energy would be the best option, but there is more to it than simple cost/benefit and renewable capacity.  The infrastructure of our electric grid is not yet 100% engineered to support renewable resources.  Energy storage, microgrid technology, distributed generation, i.e. "smart grid" tech will need to be implemented on a much wider scale before it's possible to put a 100% renewable generation system in place.

 

April 26, 2013    View Comment    

On Facts on Fracking: Three Things You Need to Know

Hi Eric,

I appreciate your resposne.  I think you're right about us needing to know what the gas & oil industry are not saying.  I agree with you there.

Fracking might cause the ground to shake from drilling, but I can't see how it could possibly cause an earthquake, unless drilling were to be done directly on a fault line - I do know of some cases of "seismic activity" recorded when drilling has been done near faults.  Tough to tell if there is any movement along the fault line with that though because the activity is small.  And if a larger magnitude earthquake occurs - it's impossible to tell if it would not have happened anyway.  

As far as safety of fracking fluid - I agree with you 100% - we can't say fracking won't give you cancer.  But, your point helps make my argument: how can you argue that fracking will give you cancer?  You can't because you don't know.  My point was less about backing up the gas industry and more about offering that counter-argument.  The propaganda from the anti-fracking movement is just as one-sided and uninformed. 

I'm sure there are carcinogens in fracking fluid & I'm sure there are materials being hidden as "trade secrets" or some other nonsense to avoid being disclosed.  But, there are carcinogens in alcoholic beverages, tobacco smoke, the sun, and a myriad of other chemicals we come into contact with every single day.  We've manufactured such an artificial world that it's just about impossible to tell where the most dangerous substances are. 

Why focus on fracking? 

April 26, 2013    View Comment    

On Facts on Fracking: Three Things You Need to Know

Hi Ralph,

In simple terms actually - yes - the ingredients that actually "do the work" of fracking fluid are in fact water & sand.  Water is one of the best solvents in existence actually, which is why it is used in just about everything, and the sand particles are what causes the fractures in the rock.  Shale is very soft rock so sand made up of harder rock particles causes fractures pretty easily.  Those ingredients make up the lion's share of the mix. 
The rest is sometimes disclosed & sometimes not - depends on state regulations.  Basically the point of the other ingredients is to suspend the sand & control the viscosity of the mix.  So even any secret ingredients used are going to be used for that purpose - there would be no other reason to add them. 
Natural gas companies are of course going to ensure that fracking fluid is perfectly safe and has no adverse health effects.  Is this true?  I hope so, but what I really want to get across is that it is really impossible to tell at this point.  More investigation and study clearly needs to be done.  But, a statement like "fracking might or might not be bad for you" isn't going to catch the same kind of attention. 
Thanks!

April 26, 2013    View Comment    

On Facts on Fracking: Three Things You Need to Know

Thank you for the comments everyone!  I'm happy to see some good discussion

April 22, 2013    View Comment    

On Discovery Means New Potential for Hydrogen from Plants

Hello, & thank you for commenting!
I'll attempt to further explain the process. 
Xylose is abundant in all plants - it is present as a main component of several polysaccharides (hemicellulose) in plants. Examples include xylan & xyloglucan, which account for well over 20% (i haven't looked up the exact number - i believe it is up to 30%?) of plant cell walls. 
from Virginia Tech's report:
"To liberate the hydrogen, Virginia Tech scientists separated a number of enzymes from their native microorganisms to create a customized enzyme cocktail that does not occur in nature. The enzymes, when combined with xylose and a polyphosphate, liberate the unprecedentedly high volume of hydrogen from xylose, resulting in the production of about three times as much hydrogen as other hydrogen producing microorganisms." 

If accurate it's an intriguing development.

 

 

 

 

 

April 12, 2013    View Comment    

On In War for Canadian Oil Sands: Keystone XL is Winning

Wow,

It'll be interesting to see how this pans out!

March 21, 2013    View Comment    

On Industrial Demand Response is Booming, Residential Isn't

Hi John,

Thanks for your comment!
Yes, demand response programs have been around since the '70s, and facilities with backup generation are usually the best candidates.  Fortunately, most factory & industrial facilities these days have on-site generation installed for emergencies & to protect equipment from voltage fluctuations.  If a demand response payment covers the cost of backup generation it's not unusual for facilities to install it.  Besides the payments from demand response it's usually not a bad idea for C&I buildings to have generators. 

Facilities don't need any additional capacity to reduce their usage during stress on the grid, however.  Often, factories can simply shift production times or processes to shed the amount of load needed, for example.

Whether or not a facility that shuts down or reduces makes up entirely for the cost of their reduction (or make even more) depends on a number of factors.  Most programs pay them for their participation based on the amount of their reduction and the price of electricity at the time, so payments can fluctuate, but a facility that takes a sigificant portion of load off the grid can make thousands of dollars for doing so. 

The residential sector is not a huge target for utilities or demand response providers for exactly the resons you mentioned.  It's difficult to motivate residental consumers to reduce electricity voluntarily.  There are "smart appliances" on the market that can reduce usage automatically, but those are more expensive and few people are willing to pay the extra cost for them. 

March 20, 2013    View Comment    

On In War for Canadian Oil Sands: Keystone XL is Winning

Pieter,

I understand all of your arguments, and I understand climate change very well.  The problem I keep seeing is not even US fossil fuel consumption so much, it is worldwide fossil fuel consumption.  I don't necessarily think the tar sands should be developed, but I think that they will regardless.  Unfortunately, the people in charge of economic & environmental issues on both sides of the border are motivated by the money at stake, and that will play huge into the decision.  The problem I see is that our opinions don't seem to matter much - even with the protests and public disapproval.   
Even if the pipeline is not built, I very much believe the oil will be extracted and exported by Canada, again, because they will want the economic boost that money can provide. 
Is this a good idea?  Most certianly not, but the sad fact is that governments and policy makers are either not motivated or brave enough - to enact the necessary measures it would take to keep climate change below the 2degree C rise that is the IEA's goal (we could pass that by 2017 easily per the most recent World Energy Outlook)
Germany and other European countries have had success with renewables like solar, but have also had problems like high energy prices, and policy makers in this country won't (in my opinion) want to risk implementing those measures until they believe there will not be any negative impacts. 
It would take the entire world implementing radical energy efficiency and emissions policies to keep climate change in check.  I would love to see that.  But, as an incurable cynic, I see too much arguing among politicans and corporations (who do hold WAY too much clout - you're right) getting in the way of any swift progress.  I think we'll cut our addiction to fossil fuels when they run out or cost too much.  

If there is a plus side - it would be a step for energy independence for North America - which is a hot topic at the moment as you know.  Maybe that helps validate the planned extraction of oil, maybe not.  But, it is an issue to be considered alongside the environmental impacts.  I think it would be a positive if the oil stayed here because we have environmental policies in place that other countries do not.  It's possible (especially if there is a carbon tax added to the mix as you mentioned) that GHG emissions would be lower if the oil is used here than in countries with little or no environmental protections.      

So, what I wrote was not really a cheerleading piece for Keystone, but simply a blunt report on what I think is happening. 

Thank you for reading!  You bring up so great points that are very worthy of serious discussion. 

 

March 19, 2013    View Comment    

On In War for Canadian Oil Sands: Keystone XL is Winning

Hi Pieter & thanks for your feedback.

To clarify a bit, I don't think it's about whether the pipeline is "good" or "bad," but more about what we can expect to happen given the environmental impact statements & information that has been released.  It's true no less CO2 will be released elsewhere in the world than here if the oil is exported overseas, and I'm sure the oil will be extracted either way.  Like I said - the value is too high.  There is too much money to be made from it for Canada to leave it undeveloped.  What I mean there is that I don't think TransCanada & all other involved parties will ever pass over that opportunity.  We've seen time and time again how companies put profit ahead of environmental health. 
Fossil fuels will definately have to be replaced at some point - there is not an infinite supply.  But as long as it is the cheapest & easiest resource around - government & corporations will continute to exploit them I think.     

March 18, 2013    View Comment    

On In War for Canadian Oil Sands: Keystone XL is Winning

That's a really interesting addition of information, Bob. 

Thanks! 

I'm going to research this a bit more . . .

March 15, 2013    View Comment